The Guardian January 31, 2001


Cuba: Czech right-wing MP & 1989 student leader to go on trial

by Ken Biggs*Editor of Postmark Prague

Ivan Pilip MP, a right-wing Minister in Czech governments from 1994 until 
July 1998, and Jan Bubenik, a student activist in the 1989 so-called 
"velvet revolution", are currently guests of the authorities at the Villa 
Marista prison in Havana, following their arrest in Ciego de Avila province 
on January 12. The Czech Foreign Ministry has handed over two protest notes 
to Cuba's charge d'affaires in Prague, David Paulovich.

The Cuban Embassy in Prague last week said that the anti-Cuban activities 
of Czech citizens Ivan Pilip MP and Jan Bubenik were only the latest "in a 
long list of unfriendly acts carried out against Cuba" by the Czech 
authorities since Vaclav Havel became President in 1989.

According to the Cuban daily Granma on Tuesday January 16, the two 
men were travelling as tourists when they arrived in Cuba on a flight from 
Cancun in Mexico.

But, the paper said, they "violated their status as tourists and, on the 
instructions of persons based in the United States, spent their time 
maintaining subversive links with members of counter-revolutionary groups 
in the province of Ciego de Avila."

"According to the AP and AFP news agencies", Granma reported, "Pilip 
is a former Minister of Finance and currently a Czech MP, while they 
identify Bubenik as a member of the so-called "Pro-Democracy Czech 
Foundation" and one of the leaders of the counter-revolutionary movement 
against socialism in Czechoslovakia".

"Preliminary investigation of the circumstances of the current stay of 
these `tourists' in Cuba has established that the visit had nothing in 
common with tourism, and that their real intention was to establish contact 
with counter-revolutionary elements, give them instructions and hand over 
money to them.

"The conduct and route of these foreigners was the same as that of a number 
of previous emissaries from the counter-revolutionary organisation "Freedom 
House".

This is a counter-revolutionary organisation "set up by the US Government 
to destabilise our revolution by promoting internal subversion, in 
accordance with Article 109 of the Helms-Burton Act, which was approved in 
1996", said Mr Paulovich.

In 1997 Freedom House was given $500,000 by the United States Agency for 
International Development (USAID). This was followed by further USAID 
funding in 1999 and 2000 totalling $825,000.

It was under Freedom House sponsorship that the so-called "Centre for a 
Free Cuba" was set up, headed by former CIA agent Frank Calzon and financed 
by a further USAID donation of $1 million.

Freedom House's role is to recruit politicians, journalists and activists 
from central and eastern Europe who have experience of the "transition to 
democracy" and send them to Cuba to help in the formation of "non-
governmental organisations" to fight "the Castro dictatorship".

There are plans to publish and distribute leaflets inside Cuba in support 
of this aim.

"Last year, from eastern European countries two Lithuanians, a Pole, a 
Romanian and a Czech were exposed as having worked for Freedom House by 
contacting leaders of counter-revolutionary groups in the capital and other 
provinces, and passing on to them not only money and other resources for 
their activities but also their `experiences' of anti-socialist activity in 
their own countries."

The Cuban paper added: "Those who grossly violate our laws and try to 
conspire against the revolution have no right to any immunity, whatever 
their position or status.

"These Czech nationals will be brought before a court, which will decide on 
the kind of measures to be taken."

In a letter to Miloslav Ransdorf MP, vice-chair of the Foreign Affairs 
Committee of the Czech Parliament's lower house, Cuba's charge d'affaires 
Mr Paulovich named seven Czech diplomats in Havana who at various times 
since 1990 have been in contact with counter-revolutionary groups.

"From 1991 to 1998", wrote Mr Paulovich, "the Czech Government was among 
the countries which supported and voted for anti-Cuban US resolutions on 
human rights."

After the failure of the last such resolution at the Geneva-based 
Commission for Human Rights in 1998, the Czech Government agreed to act as 
"the public face" of US anti-Cuban policy.

"The Cuban people and their government await an explanation and an apology 
from the Czech Government", said Mr Paulovich.

* * *
* Taken from two articles by Ken Biggs, Editor of Postmark Prague.

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